The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
ALL those things which may be thought with the heart, or spoken with the tongue, or seen with the eyes or handled with the hands, are well-nigh nothing with regard and in comparison to those things which cannot be thought, or seen or touched. All the saints and all the wise men who have passed away, and all those who are in the present life, and all those who shall come after us, who have spoken or written or who shall speak or write concerning God, have never said nor shall ever be able to say so much concerning God as would be a grain of millet with regard and in comparison to the heaven and the earth, yea even a thousand thousand times less. For all the Scriptures which spake of God, speak of Him as it were babblingly, even as doth a mother who babbles with her infant, that would not understand her words if she spoke in any other way. Once Friar Giles said to a doctor of law, a layman: "Believest thou that the gifts of God are great?" The lawyer made answer: "I believe". Whereto Friar Giles said: "I will show thee that thou dost not believe faithfully"; and thereafter he said unto him: "What is the worth of that which thou possessest in this world?" The lawyer replied: "It is worth perhaps a thousand lire". Then Friar Giles said: "Wouldst thou give these possessions of thine for ten thousand lire?" The lawyer replied without hesitation, saying: "Certainly I would give them willingly"; and Friar Giles said: "It is a thing indisputable that all the possessions of this world are as nothing in comparison with celestial things: wherefore then dost thou not give these possessions of thine to Christ that thou
mayest therewith buy those which are celestial and eternal?" Then the lawyer, wise in the foolish science of the world, answered pure and simple Friar Giles: "God hath filled thee full of the foolishness of Divine wisdom," saying: "Dost thou believe, Friar Giles, that there is any man whose visible and external works are proportionate to his inward belief?" Friar Giles made answer: "Behold, my dearest brother, it is certain that all the saints have striven to fulfil in their actions all that which they understood to be the will of God, to the utmost of their power; and all those things which they were not able to fulfil in their actions, they fulfilled with the holy desires of their wills; on such wise that with the desire of the soul they supplied that which was lacking in their actions, and so fulfilled the will of God". Then said Friar Giles: "If any man had perfect faith, in a little while he would attain to a state of perfection, whereby he would be given full assurance of salvation. The man that with firm faith awaits that eternal and supreme and highest Good, what harm or what ill could any temporal adversity in this present life do him? And the wretched man who awaits the eternal evil, what shall any prosperity or temporal good in this world profit him? Nevertheless, albeit a man is a sinner, he ought not therefore to despair, as long as he lives, of the infinite mercy of God; for where is no tree in all the world so thorny and gnarled and knotty that men cannot smooth it and polish it and beautify it and make it fair: and even so there is no man so evil, nor any sinner in this world so great that God cannot convert him and adorn him with singular graces and with the gift of many virtues."